How many years does it take for an event to be a “long time ago”? This question doesn’t have a ready answer except, “it depends”. But that doesn’t help much either because that begs the question, “on what?” Maybe “a long time ago” means something different to each of us. For me, a benchmark for “a long time ago” is an event that in one way changed our country forever and, in another way, kept us the same.
The Civil War began in 1861 and lasted until 1865. Then, steam engines powered industry and propelled locomotives transporting goods and passengers. For local travel a horse carried a rider or pulled a carriage, houses were lit with candles or oil lamps, indoor plumbing was for the few, air travel was limited to balloons as a novelty or as a tool of war.
In perspective. I was born in 1934. It is now 2021, 87 years later. The year of my birth was only 73 years from the start of the civil war. If my great grandfather had been around when I was seven at the start of WW II, he could have said “Genie” (I was a junior and that’s what I was called), “When I was about your age, I too saw the men riding off to war”.
That puts me, a newly minted great grandparent, one grandparenthood away from the Civil War, my personal benchmark for “olden times”. Three generations encompass a long time for me and the longer life spans of today mean more of us will share memories of a long time ago.
Looking at what changed in my great grandfather’s lifetime makes an impressive list. Taking the most significant events in his span and limiting to just the top five they might be: Comforts of modern living like electricity, plumbing and air conditioning, air travel, the automobile, telephone, woman’s suffrage.
Now look at what happened in life for me a new great grandfather, as I look at our newest family member young Abigail. Again, taking the top five in my lifetime : Air travel culminating in landing on the moon, Information technology, computers and the internet, Civil rights, monumental advances in health care, and too many more to narrow down. Name your own.
I would tell Abigail, that a lot has changed in my lifetime, and a lot will change in hers. But we are the same flesh and blood, mind, and spirit. Regardless of where we live and what we have, when it comes to who we are the answer is, pretty much the same. Each of us, regardless of our surroundings, should do everything we can to make life the best it can be for those around us by doing something only we can do and there is no better way to start than by loving your neighbor.
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